When the technology that’s all around just works, the world works.

COLUMN | April 19, 2022 | 3 min read

Harnessing the power of customer feedback

Adopt these 4 practices to produce better CX

By Matt Lombardi, global head of customer experience strategy at ServiceNow and Jill Helmle, senior manager of customer experience strategy at ServiceNow

If you’re curious how hot a commodity customer feedback is these days, look no further than your inbox, where product-review requests and customer-experience surveys arrive early and often. But too often an email survey is where a company’s customer-data effort begins and ends.

Though organizations are keen to know more about what customers think about them, few have a survey-management strategy or set of best practices to turn that feedback into actionable insights. This absence is a crucial oversight that can have costly financial and legal consequences. Noncompliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when reaching out to customers and storing their data, for example, can cost some violators well into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The prime consideration in conducting survey management should be customer experience and satisfaction. Over-polling, or polling without an organized method, can leave customers feeling harassed and may damage your relationship with them if you don’t respond to negative feedback promptly. Both McKinsey and Perceptyx found that not following up with dissatisfied customers can have a powerfully negative impact on the relationship. Bottom line: never send a survey unless you are ready to take action.

Customer feedback is a powerful gift. Here are four critical best practices that will strengthen your survey management practice and help you avoid costly missteps.

Building a centralized survey management function helps mitigate challenges and risks. It should involve an organization-wide survey intake process to avoid redundant surveys and survey fatigue among participants. A good way to improve the overall quality of your surveys: Empower one individual or team to assess all company wide surveys based on impact to the customer, actionability of the insights, and legal risk.

A more robust approach is to centralize all survey operations within one team to provide survey-design support; identify the target audience(s) and required sample size; program the survey; and get it into the field. Such white-glove support alleviates the burden of the survey process on those driving important company initiatives and ensures that every survey question has an actionable purpose.

Running all survey programs on one platform means that you can implement a touch rule to avoid questioning your customers too much or too often. As organizations grow, coordinating messaging and outreach to the customer gets harder. But with a touch rule in place and all surveys running from the same platform, you can be sure that your customers will not be inundated with surveys.

Employing a single, centralized platform to run all your organization’s surveys also allows you creating custom, branded message templates in the platform, ensuring a consistent look and feel across all survey touchpoints. It also demonstrates thought and coordination behind your organization’s approach to surveys.

Poorly designed surveys can reflect poorly on your brand and result in useless data. Here are four survey design tenets to keep in mind:

  • Brevity. Nobody likes overlong customer surveys, so stick to the golden rule: 10 questions or fewer, answerable in less than five minutes.
  • Simplicity. Clearly defining key terms and avoiding jargon will greatly reduce survey confusion. Run your questions by a colleague or family member. If they don’t answer the questions you wanted answered, you likely need to pose better questions.
  • Actionable. For every question, ask yourself: Will I be able to act based on the results? Your customers’ time is valuable, so make every question count.
  • Consistent. If you have an ongoing survey program that continuously collects feedback—and perhaps at different moments that matter along the customer journey—choose a metric or metrics that you can track over time. Be sure to ask metrics questions the same way each time.

Following up with customers who take the time to return a survey is a best practice that cannot be ignored or undervalued. Show them that you value their time and feedback and are listening.

This could be as simple as a thank you email or a message that shares what the company plans to do to improve the customer experience. It could involve a phone call to a customer who provided thoughtful if bruising feedback, offering an apology and an opportunity to directly address the issue.

Closing the loop can also ensure future survey participation and improve customer loyalty.

Customer feedback is a gift. It can be the catalyst for an improved and more engaging customer experience. Companies that seek honest and unbiased feedback from their customers, and act on it, have a distinct business advantage.

What Real Customer Services Leaders Do When Life Goes Off Script

Related articles

Rethinking retail
Rethinking retail

All businesses are complex ecosystems—retail more than most

Executives need to listen
Executives need to listen

Companies that don’t pay attention to customers and employees are missing out

Innovating through uncertainty
Innovating through uncertainty

Companies face an array of challenges. Technology that increases productivity and efficiency offers a clear solution.

AI joins the conversation
AI joins the conversation

A roadmap for maximizing digital value in modern organizations


Matt Lombardi is global head of customer experience strategy at ServiceNow.

Jill Helmle is senior manager of customer experience strategy at ServiceNow. She has a Ph.D. in communication from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Loading spinner